Blurb: Somewhere outside our universe, she is waiting.
A god-like immortal, living in a realm of clocks. The hours tick slowly by as she plots and plans. She is readying her trap. A trap for a very special man in a very special police box.
Hecuba has all the time in the world. But for the Doctor, time is running out.
Format: Limited-cast audio drama with narration. Adapted from an unmade television script. Published by Big Finish Productions and released October 2013.
Setting: Hecuba's realm, somewhere outside of time and space.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Invasion and The Krotons. Really there's no indication of when this happens, although it is clearly a season 6 story. I've chosen this placement to put it with the other season 6 Lost Stories and since this is the earliest possible gap with this TARDIS team. It could just as easily happen between any two stories up to The War Games. Zoe mentions that the Doctor has told her about the Celestial Toymaker (see The Celestial Toymaker).
Canonicity Quotient: It seems really really odd that no one mentions the events of The Mind Robber here since some of the situations are similar. Still, that isn't exactly a discontinuity, it just seems very strange. 0.99
Discussion: I have to say that very few Doctor Who stories have left me feeling as empty inside as the Queen of Time. Don't get me wrong. There's some good here, mostly in the performances of Fraser Hines and Wendy Padbury. As always they do a great job reprising their roles as Jamie and Zoe. Once again Hines does a standout performance of recreating Patrick Troughton's Doctor and mannerisms as well. Unfortunately beyond that there isn't much more to recommend this one.
The story is such a retread of The Celestial Toymaker that it is almost absurd. Hecuba separates the Doctor from his companions and puts them each through various puzzles and traps to see how they do. I was glad when they finally said that she was the Toymaker's sister, because until that point I thought that somehow they thought that they could get away with redoing a previous story without even referencing it. At least they tried to create a reason why it was so similar. Yet in every way that you compare the two stories, this one comes off the worse. For instance, there's a lot of great dialog and banter between the Toymaker and the Doctor in that story. Here, Hecuba and the Doctor barely match wits. It's mostly her with her fake flirtations and him acting uncomfortable while they watch what Jamie and Zoe are doing.
Another issue is the supporting cast. In The Celestial Toymaker you had Joey, Clara, and Cyril. They made the games more interesting by how they interacted with each other and even cheated. In this story we have two animals named Snap and Dragon. They don't do anything other than bite at Zoe and Jamie and make noise. This means that Jamie and Zoe face their trials with inanimate objects and their wits. This gets kind of dull with their just interacting with each other for four episodes. Finally, there's Hecuba itself. There has never been a more annoying character. She kept going from girlish titter to husky seductress voice every time she spoke. It got annoying and tired very quickly. It was just fit for embarrassed acting from the Doctor which didn't really give any frisson from their interaction and just made for some tedious listening.
Another issue was the puzzles. In the Toymaker, they made sure to make the puzzles like games that people would be familiar with. Here many of the puzzles don't make any sense or aren't even puzzles. For instance there's the game that the Doctor plays with Hecuba. There's already some strangeness here with the Doctor having to be very specific about his choice where he gives the model and year of his tank, but Hecuba only needs to ask for "a laser". But even beyond that the Doctor wins by declaring his next weapon to be peace. Peace isn't a weapon. It would have been a lot more satisfying if the Doctor had declared something like a mirror and the laser had reflected off itself and given him the victory. Then there's the one with Jamie and Zoe and the various tiles that speed up or slow down or rewind time. The puzzle is supposed to be on letters standing for words related to time. Yet some of those letters have more than one word that they could be and some of the letters could mean the same thing. "R" can be "reverse or "B" can be backwards. "S" could be "stop" or "slow". The whole thing is a mess and doesn't really make any sense of how Zoe and Jamie are able to solve it. Finally there's Hecuba's solution which isn't really a puzzle at all. She threatens the Doctor's friends and gets him to go into an inescapable box. The Toymaker's triumph made sense because he was going to goad the Doctor into winning the game and take him out with his universe. Yet there's no way to see through Hecuba's trap and for the Doctor to avoid it. So there's no real satisfaction in the manner in which he's gotten out of it. Good drama hinges on knowing the rules before they happen but in this story it seems like the writer is making them up as they go along. Who'd have known that stopping the giant clock stopped time here? It's a mess.
It's also unclear if Hecuba's machine actually sends anyone anywhere in time. Is it just a recreation of Marie Antoinette that Hecuba sends people to encounter? Why is she a child yet she keeps saying that she's never said "Let them eat cake". She's not supposed to have said that as a child. Is Hecuba left in some sort of time loop at the end or will she actually now exist in 18th century France and be able to interact with people there? Why is Hecuba constantly having trouble working the controls in her own realm? With her powers why does she even need a remote?
The writing is also a bit tired. Hecuba is described with the same expressions such as having her "eyes flashing" a lot of times. With very little variation in the descriptions used listening to this story became very tedious very quickly. I do not recall the name Catherine Harvey from any other stories that I've listened to so I'm wondering if she's a fairly new writer. If that's the case then certainly some leeway should be allowed but it didn't make the actual experience any easier.
Final Rating: 3/10
Recommendation: Tired and dull, even at 4 parts this one seems to drag. It lacks any of the interest that its sister story, The Celestial Toymaker may grant and lacks all of the fun of something like The Mind Robber, which also deals with the fantastic. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one.